Just as Bruni took down the obscenely overpriced and mediocre Harry Cipriani, so today Sam Sifton pens a scorcher on UES rich person's haunt Nello. Of course, he gives it a goose.
No one needs to be told that this restaurant is a sceney club charging Upper East Siders exorbitant prices for terrible food. And a bad review isn't going to deter the return of Nello's legions of wealthy regulars. But, as he exhibited in his goose of Le Caprice, his onespot of Chin Chin, Sifty is fascinated with NYC phenomena, how restaurants fit into the fabric of the city (regardless of how meaningful the place is to the greater dining world):
It is a private club of sorts, where the dues are paid nightly. The meetings are unadvertised. Nello’s dining room can be crowded at 3 p.m. or midnight. It can also be empty at 1 p.m. or 9 p.m. Regular patrons respond to whistles mere customers cannot hear.It is where Saudi princes, Upper East Side blue bloods, and women in tennis bracelets and hot pink fur go to enjoy the beautiful setting—it is "extremely pleasant," Sifton admits—down $40 plates of pasta, and stare at one another. But yes, yes, of course, the food is god-awful.
The risotto is flavorless, the mushrooms, gritty, the chicken livers, "sawdusty." The artichokes "tasted of shirt cardboard," the vitello tonnato of sliced shoe, while the lobster ravioli was "so tasteless it might have been prop food for an advertisement." And a dinner for four is $600. [NYT]
Alan Richman thinks the tap room at Colicchio & Sons is a huge success. He's not so wowed by the main dining room: "...interesting rather than inspired. The setbacks were consistent. Most had to do with too many ingredients per dish, none of them given a chance to star." [GQ]
Jay Cheshes gives four out of five stars to Jean-Georges' new hotel restaurant The Mark: "It’s the perfect addition to New York’s most stagnant restaurant neighborhood...And the simple, accessible food is exciting without being too challenging, flawlessly executed and lighter than most comparable fare. Though the menu breaks little new ground, it certainly shows off the chef’s impeccable standards..." [TONY]
Like many other critics, Robert Sietsema is turned off by the look of Faustina but, for the most part, loves the food: "The core of the menu, though, is a playful and innovative take on Italian cuisine, in a way that reminds me of Batali's best days at Babbo, and Conant's more recent work at Scarpetta, proving that the chef is trying to retain at least part of his well-deserved reputation in this project." [VV]
Today Adam Platt awards one star each to two relatively new bars where food plays second fiddle to the drinks, Highlands and Bar Henry. The dishes at the former are hit or miss, while the whisky shines. At Bar Henry, a mecca for wine geeks, the food ranges from "the dreary...to the predictable." [NYM]
THE ELSEWHERE: Sam Sifton rates newcomer Print "fine," Julia Moskin thinks the food at new Upper East Side Frenchie Bistro Vendome is routine but often tasty, Sarah DiGregorio finds some uncommonly excellent Gujarati and Punjabi fare in a weirdly sleek setting at Bhojan on Lex, Tables to Two is charmed by Pichet Ong's Village Tart, and The Mark left Gael Greene lukewarm at first but eventually she came around.
THE BLOGS: The Food Doc thinks Annisa is still finding its legs, Immaculate Infatuation finds an hour wait and "ass-tastic" food at Hecho en Dumbo, while Serious Eats gives the place a B+, the Hungry Roach doesn't think the warm vibe of the kitchen can penetrate that dining room at Faustina, NY Journal deems some of the food pedestrian, some of it good at the not incredibly ambitious Jean-Georges newcomer The Mark, while he is utterly disappointed in The Harrison, the Pink Pig has a rave for new East Village spot The Brindle Room, and Eatery Row finds a lot to love at Ditmas Park's Purple Yam.
[Photo by Flickr/D90 student]